5 Settings to Use on VSCO to Improve Your Pictures!

Hello shutterbugs! This post can be useful not only for product pictures but also for shots of humans and landscapes and really many types of photography! I’m a huge fan of the VSCO app for editing all kinds of images on my phone, and I’m going to share the top settings I play around with to get my pictures to look almost professional.

I remember when I first started taking pictures of my products for my Etsy shop, I thought I was killing the game, and now looking back I realize how lost I was. What helped? Things took a turn for the better once I took Hilary Rushford’s “Instagram With Intention” free online workshop, where she introduced us to VSCO (I’m a big advocate for taking any and all free seminars you see offered, there’s always something to learn and you have nothing to lose, especially when they’re free. If it just so happens that you like what you hear, you can subscribe or get a membership to keep getting useful content). Without any further ado, let me share the very basic but completely life-changing tips I learned from Hilary and immediately implemented to my picture-editing game. Let’s keep this interesting with a step by step example: pizza picture please!

  • Natural light: this is an obvious one for many (and not a VSCO setting, but I got you guys with a bonus later) but the perfect foundation for good pictures is to take them in natural light – aka, not being hit by direct/yellow light, but placed where it would receive a diffused, indirect “bath” of light. Check out this original shot of a yummy pizza in what looks like natural light. Nothing wrong with it, but it’s definitely not Instagram ready. Yet!

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  • Exposure: exposure is the vert first setting option, and it stands for the amount of light you want to add or remove from your picture, or how much light you’d want it “exposed” to. I usually move the dial to the right on average to +2-3.5 as shown in the picture, so that it looks like it was professionally lit, and that sometimes helps diminish imperfections as well. Play around with the button and always start off small, because there is such a thing as “overexposed” pictures. This is going to make the pizza look a little pale because there was already light, but the combination of edits is what does the magic.

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  • Contrast: the contrast feature strengthens the properties of each color, making the light tones lighter, and the dark tones darker. This one is also good to keep at +2-3.5.

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  • Saturation: saturation is here to make your colors look extra alive! Now, this one I’m super extra careful with, because it usually brings in a strong yellow/orange aura to the picture. So you can play around it and keep it around a +1.5-2.5. The pizza is ready to pop off the screen, but it almost looks like it was under a lamp light to stay warm. Not good yet!

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  • Temperature: to the left, to the left! The solution to most of your yellow/orange problems is to make the picture colors “cooler” in tone, so literally lowering the temperature will bring on the blue hues. Don’t go too far, just enough to see yellows turning white is perfect. A -1 or -2 usually does the trick.

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Now those are the ones I use pretty much for almost every picture edit, but not all pictures are created equal and there’s no one size fits all edit. These are not filters, these are enhancers that work under your guidance to get the tones jussssst right, on an individual basis. But this picture is not perfect yet. The light colors are now a little too light, and it has lost some of the detail. Since I’m more used to playing with the app now, I know exactly what to do next. In this case, I’m going over to the “Highlights” feature. I moved this one up to +10, but I really have no parameters for it since I seldom use it. See how now there are more spots in the cheese? All the colors garnered strength again.

 

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And now, our pizza is ready to get all the glory of Instagram and make your followers salivate. Let’s see the before and after, side by side. Shall we?

Now, the first picture almost makes it look like the pizza was in the oven for a little too long, but the second one literally has me ready to #TBT in real life and go back to that magical moment before having it.

Anywho, I’m no foodie blogger or expert picture taker, but I definitely saw a huge improvement in my pictures over time, and my feed got much, much prettier. The other secret for me has been the white background. That’s a product photography staple, and as much as I tried to fight it at first, it’s simply perfect. I hope these tips help elevate your picture game and if you have any suggestions on other features to use, please drop them in the comments below!

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New OBSESSION: Mr. Kate!

Oh. Em. Gee. you guys! I just found the deepest YouTube black hole I’m about to fall into head first, and possibly never come out of. Most people don’t know this about me, but I spend a good amount of time on YouTube, half as a hobby, and half as work/research. Since I work in social media, I’m always trying to study the trends and see how we can implement whatever the kids want to see these days (hello, am I 80 yet?), but I have also inadvertently gotten invested in the lives and success of many of these digital influencers, and counting. And it’s all because of Jenna Marbles.

My top YouTuber to watch for more than a year now is Lilly Singh, aka iiSuperwomanii, who has a comedy/skit based main channel, and a second daily vlog channel where she shares a lot of what goes on behind the scenes in her life and work, and aims to motivate her viewers to hustle hard as we watch her do every day. Now, because of Lilly, I’ve come across many other creators and I have gotten attached to a few of them, but none have taken my heart and eyes by storm as much as Mr. Kate. An interior design/decorator, Kate Albrecht and her partner Joey Zehr aim to transform pretty much any space they walk into within a very short amount of time, and with all the unexpected twists and turns you can’t imagine. I consider myself a pretty creative and hands-on DIYer and handyman when duty calls, but Kate is simply fearless when it comes to juxtaposing textures, colors, materials and even multiple tastes into a single space.

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Kate and Joey, no better DIY Demolishing Duo out there!

Lilly hired Kate to style her bedroom and her home office space, and it was simply love at first sight for me. The magic of Kate – besides her super charming and electric personality, her positive disposition, and boundless creativity – is that when you see each detail she is bringing into any space, there’s almost a speck of doubt “will this actually look good/cohesive with the rest of the stuff?,” and then you get to the end clip where they show the finished work, and you just have to scold yourself for ever having doubted Kate in the first place. She is INCREDIBLE and I can’t get enough of her. I immediately started back-watching everything she had ever posted, which is a lot of content and she has it broken up into series for our convenient viewing. Some of my favorites include:

  • O.M.G. We Bought A House! – a (so far) three-season style show on YouTube, with a format that EASILY competes with anything you can find on traditional TV and the likes of HGTV, where Kate and Joey purchase their first home, and do some serious remodel of every single nook and cranny of a decades-old house.
  • O.M.G. We Are Coming Over! – also known as O.M.G. WACO, taking the original OMG to new heights and places, as Kate and Joey style or remodel the homes/rooms/work spaces of mainly “digitally famous” people who much like themselves, found an online following. This one is a dangerous series, as Kate acts as the funnel to introduce me to many other creators I had no idea existed and now how am I supposed to ever get out of bed from watching so many people?! My favorite part of this one is seeing how Kate really absorbs the personalities and preferences of each of her Creator Customers, and creates a space that they could’ve never in a million years build for themselves, because we all have our strengths, but no one decorates like Kate.
  • Breaking Beige – a shorter series that showcases Kate and Joey making over smaller spaces where regular Joes and Janes suffer at the hands of incredibly monochromatic color-schemes in their homes, and Super Mr. Kate comes to the rescue to break them out of their beige cages and bring color and life into their homes.

All the shows are so well-done, and take full advantage of the season/show format YouTube offers like little other channels do. Kate has a clear vision, and the style of the shows is undoubtedly just as good, if not solidly better than whatever you can find on TV. It’s all really, REALLY well-executed.

I thought about adding pictures to this post of a few beautiful rooms Kate has created, but I simply can’t do that to all the other rooms. You just have to see for yourself! Also, the Mr. Kate channel is just about to cross the One Million YouTube Subscribers mark, so if anyone is looking for a new channel to watch endlessly, I can’t recommend this one enough!

Basically, if anyone needs me for the next couple of months, I’ll be binge-watching Mr. Kate until I can get through all of her videos and take in every gram of the fabulousness Kate has to offer.

Copyright Infringement, Plagiarism, and ‘Imitation is the Most Sincere Form of Flattery’

Creating something brand new or finding truly original content/products is very hard these days. For example, think about current TV executive board meetings… In my head, they go a little something like this:

  • TV Guy 1: Hey guys, let’s talk about ideas for a new show for next fall
  • TV Guy 2: How about we remake/reunite Friends/Full House/Charmed/Sabrina the Teenage Witch/Gilmore Girls/literally any 90s show ever made?
  • All the TV Guys in unison: SOUNDS LIKE A PLAN!

Whatever happened to predictability? Ha, had to! No, but seriously, they really need to stop bringing back everyone and everything, especially when the shows had perfect closures – except Friends. They can bring back Friends forever until every cast member dies.

Anywho… The point is, a lot of times it can feel like everything has already been created/thought of, and it’s hard to think about something from scratch. After all, we have Pinterest!

I completely understand the struggle. As an Etsy seller, it’s my ultimate goal to have fresh and new items that my customers can only find at my shop, that keep them coming back, and that provide me with a stable income. I’ve tried from day 1 to make things people want, and because I’ve taken enough business classes, I know the key is to look for a market void and try to fill it.

The whole “photo booth props” niche was a very happy accident, but an accident nonetheless. I know there are plenty of providers of photo booth props in both digital and physical format, and I know they’ll continue to come up. I for one have tried very hard to create designs that are 100% authentic, different from what’s already out there, of good quality, and fun. Even though the bulk of my items are inspired by Disney, every single prop has been hand drawn, cut and put together by me – just like I make 4th of July, graduation, or wedding sets. The ideas/events/institutions have been around forever, but the designs themselves are mine.

So you can imagine, it’s disheartening/frustrating (to say the least) when you find that your designs have been copied by other sellers, right under your nose. And that’s what inspired this blog post. Is imitation REALLY the most sincere form of flattery? I’m not sure.

Yesterday, I was doing my routine SEO self-check, where I search random keywords associated with my items and I see in which pages they land, so I can make sure I’m staying relevant and top-sided in Etsy’s algorithms. As I start scanning for my props, on the very first page my eyes pick up on some familiar shapes, and I’m confused for a moment. Wait… Is that… Did I… No that’s not… Who… Woah. That’s my design, but that’s NOT my picture, or my shop.

As you all should know by now, I’m obsessed with everything Disney. So when the Descendants Movie came out, I was front row (to my TV) ready to watch it and fall in love with yet another new classic. It worked. I did. I died. And then, a customer saw my standard set of Villain-inspired props, and asked if I could make her some Descendants villain props. I already had 3 out of the 4 parents (Evil Queen, Jafar & Maleficent) designed from prior sets, so I got to work and drew out the last parent (Cruella), plus the 4 children: Evie, Jay, Mal & Carlos. I’m pretty proud of how they turned out, and I’ve already received a few orders for the set. So you can imagine, that when I see someone copied my design to the T, I’m a little bit flabbergasted. Let me show you what I mean:

I’ve checked for Descendants props on Etsy before, but there were none. Mine were the very first set of Villain parents and children on the marketplace. Until, quite literally, last week. On March 14th, another shop posted a set of Descendants props that looks like this:

Quite honestly, I couldn’t believe it! So eerie to notice the ends of the hair on the girls, Carlos’ (black and white hair) spikes, Jay’s hairstyle… They literally copied my design inch by inch. On the side of the parents, I think most of those props had been done before, but again, I hand drew my designs based off of the original cartoons, not other people’s interpretation of them.

Do you know what I did when I saw this? Wild guess? I laughed. I was in shock, but I try to avoid going crazy over things I cannot change, because ultimately, it only affects me. So I just laughed and, tried to figure out what I should do next. These were my options:

  1. Let it go (whaddup Frozen reference?! Whaddup iiSuperwomanii reference within the reference? #inception): be the bigger person, not care that my work was copied, move on…
  2. Report the listing: Etsy has an option to report listings. I’ve never done this before so I’m not sure under what grounds you may report something (probably over graphic or offensive content?). But, I really don’t want to start drama with another shop. I’ve been on the receiving side of crazy before, and it’s not fun.
  3. Send the shop a direct message: should I let them know I know? I would crap my pants if another shop messaged me telling me I plagiarized their item. I would for sure take it down, possibly apologize, but that’s just me. I’m not sure how the other shop will react.
  4. Write a blog about it to open up a dialogue and hear different perspectives on the matter? Sounds like a plan 🙂

I won’t do anything other than #4 right now. I really just wanted to put this out there for two reasons:

  1. For aspiring or existing Etsy owners – I know of one owner in particular who went through this recently. She was devastated that her design was plagiarized and I believe she reported it, but I’m not sure how much she could do about it or how the case turned out. I just know that it tortured her and stole her peace for weeks. We all work hard to make our shops stand out, hoping for stable sales and happy customers eager to leave reviews. It’s not an easy process trying to make a shop grow and go from hobby or side gig to a business, and this is potentially a roadblock. It’s not a “fair” competition. It’s a dirty play. It sucks but it’s not a make or break situation, so I really just wanted to showcase the story and hopefully have it serve as a “everything will be alright” reassurance, which I’ll need to confirm in the future. But I really think it will.
  2. Trying to honor my #WCBBloggingTuesdays commitment, and always #KeepingItReal (also, please help #KeepInstagramChronological)

In any case, as shocked and surprised as I was, this hasn’t really affected me the way other events have (I’m an ultra sensitive person), so I’m proud of myself for that. At the same time, I know social media makes it seem like everything is peachy 100% of the time, and I don’t tend to share the down moments, but I think it’s an important part of my journey, and in every moment, there’s a lesson to be learned.

Please share your thoughts below, and any personal stories of dealing with plagiarism or copycats are a plus!!